KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Gymnastics Federation (MGF) will focus their attention on getting only the men's artistic men gymnasts to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
And they are banking on Ng Shu Wai and Loke Yik Siang to become the first two Malaysian men to feature in the Olympics gymnastics.
The MGF secretary, N. Shanmugarajah, said yesterday that national team, led by Shu Wai and Yik Siang, would aim to finish among the top 18 in the World Championships, which will be held in Anaheim, the United States, from Aug 16-24. The championships serve as a qualifying event for the Athens Games.
Several Open championships have been lined up for the gymnasts in the run-up to the world meet. Their first assignment is the Tunnier Der Meisten Championships in Germany from March 6-10.
“Based on the world meet performances, 98 men and 98 women will be selected for the Olympics. Our target for the men is to finish among the top 18 teams in the world championships,” said Shanmugarajah.
“Our women have not showed their potential to qualify for the Olympics. Based on past results and current form, we find that the men have realistic chances to qualify.”
Au Li Yen was the first Malaysian to feature in the Olympics. She gained a wild card to compete in the 2000 Games in Sydney.
For the 2004 Olympics, a country can have their entire six-member team in the Games if they finish among the top 12 in the world championships. Teams in 13th to 18 places, will be get to send their top two gymnasts. Those in 19th to 29th spots will get one entry each. The remaining four gymnasts are wild cards.
“We have a realistic chance to finished among the 13th to 18th-placed teams to get two representatives in the Athens Olympics. But we will be satisfied if we get one,” said Shanmugarajah.
Besides Shu Wai and Yik Siang, the others in the men's training squad are Onn Kwang Tung, Ng Shu Man, Ooi Wei Siang, Lum Wan Fang and Heng Wah Mai.
The women's gymnasts are Chang Zhi Wei, Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid, Siti Aishah Abdul Jaafar and Yap Yee Yin.
The men are training under three Chinese coaches – Cui Tianzeng, Liu Shunan and Zhang Jun.
“Our men's routines are world-class but they lack stability in their routine executions. This has to be improved,” said Shanmugarajah.
“We also hope that there will be no injuries or gymnasts quitting the team. Hopefully, the coaches will also not leave us to take up better offers and leave us in a lurch.”
Shu Wai was a silver medallist at the Commonwealth Games last year in the floor exercise while Yik Siang bagged a bronze in pommel horse.